The paper cutting artist Nakamura Atsuomi
From childhood until the thought of Human relationships
Inspired by the Heart Sutra
The art made with delicate paper cutting techniques.
Today it is our great pleasure to introduce a resident of Yamaguchi Prefecture, an artist who holds hands with God, Mr Atsuomi Nakamura.
Despite receiving rave reviews at both domestic and international exhibitions (both solo and group), He has a cool personality, and speaks without putting on airs.
An altogether innately talented artist.
A young boy who was good with his hands
I was born in Shunan city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and lived my whole childhood there.
From early on I was very good with my hands.
I’m not sure when, but in elementary school only in art was I rated with the top mark of 5.
1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 5, like that (laughs).
I also won the prefecture art competition a few times, and made some complicated cubic objects in origami.
I also had a radio controlled car.
The cupboard in my room in my family house is still messy (laughs).
My elder sister is completely different to me, she’s really good at studying and got amazing grades at school, so my ability to not lose to anyone at art became a major point of self-esteem for me.
That said, I never really had a strong desire to get better marks in the other subjects (laughs)
My mum and dad were normal people, but when I was 2 years old, they got divorced, so we lived as 3 with my mum.
In my second year at elementary school I got a new father.
I was young, so this was a bit of a difficult time for me, but I built up my relationship with my new father over a long period of time, and there was a part of me that was always looking at the other people around me and learning from them what a normal state of affairs would be.
Depending on your age, when a person who is not your biological father tries to connect to you as a father it’s really difficult to stop the strong feelings in your heart that reject this.
More than general notions and ideas of raising a child, the unreasonableness of a stranger telling me off often annoyed me.
From whatever angle I looked at the situation I had found myself in, I couldn’t help but think things like, “why has this been forced upon me!”
What is a parent and child? What is a stranger? What is a family?
In developing the quality of this relationship with my step-father, I had to think more deeply about the interpersonal bonds between people, and this most likely affected my personality.
My introduction to the Heart Sutra and my changing thoughts on the after-life
In my 3rd year at elementary school I got the chance to read Tezuka Osamu’s Buddha and Phoenix,
and the story resonated intensely with me.
In particular, the scene when Siddhartha Gautama (Gautama Buddha) achieved enlightenment struck me deeply
It is a piece that inspires you to think about the meaning of life for a single human up to death, the meaning of their birth and death, and the meaning of living today.
So why have I been interested in Buddhism and Heart Sutra since I was a young child, being particularly devoted to Heart Sutra?
In middle school I made a relief art work focussing on Maitreya Buddha.
Just like before, my academic grades weren’t good, but I was influenced by my love of Heart Sutra and so when I graduated I started attending a Heart Sutra high school in my home town.
There were many boisterous boys at my school, and as we were teenagers, everyday on the way to school we noticed the high school girls on the train with us (laughs).
I as well, in common with the others my age, put a lot of importance on my hairstyle that day (laughs).
Perhaps it was because I was attending a Heart Sutra school, but by observing the relationships between boys and girls I was able to study how people lived.
From that time I have dated many ladies, but as a general theme, in the end they’ve given me the hard shoulder.
I ask them out and then we date, but the cruel fact is that it always ends up with them leaving me (laughs).
Naturally I have thought about why this is, and why there is the cycle of meeting and breaking up.
My own parents were the same. I have had ample opportunity to consider deeply how people’s hearts change, the meaning behind a short relationship, and the significance of it all.
Sexual attraction, what is it?
Sexual attraction leads to mating, it is linked to the existence of the seed.
From time to time, aren’t there times when you can’t help but think think the deed itself is annoying.
However, because of the existence of pleasure, people continually turn to it.
Therefore, do you not think that the sexual lust is a sacred thing, that is intertwined with the invisible touch of Buddha’s or God?
Everyday overflowing with chances to make creative works
After graduating from high school I found a job in the construction industry. Of course, working on a construction site there were many times where I could be proud of my skill with my hands.
Using waste such as wood and aluminium from the builds I made a few things. For example, a table made out of concrete, and some wire art.
I also did some regular art, like water colour painting.
At that time, if someone said they would like it, I would offer it to them.
Though I do say it myself, for an amateur my work was of a different quality, and so there were even some shops that used my work for decoration.
As I was doing it all for free, I often thought about how I could continue my life like this.
For example, if I made a table, people would be happy. However, if I started selling them then I would have to replenish my materials if I wanted to make lots, so any time I started thinking about selling them I’d lose all my motivation.
I felt that what I wanted was different to making the same product over and over again.
So in this way I felt something burning inside of me.
Then suddenly one day, in answer to my prayers, just by chance I ended up using paper cutting.
There is a person that has always looked out for me, in fact even to this day they still look out for me, and even though at the time I only seemed like a regular person, they were always kind to me.
On that day, they told me that one day they would like to buy one of my works, so they requested that I make something for them.
Whilst we were having fun drinking they said they’d like a picture I had drawn, so I said I’d draw it, but I felt that this wouldn’t show my gratitude enough.
Just drawing a picture seemed to be lacking something.
I thought long and hard about it, when suddenly I was struck with some inspiration, and I picked up the crafting knife lying near me, and became overcome by the impulse to try cutting a picture like the one they liked.
It was a picture of the 7 Gods of fortune. I intuitively managed to make it using the paper cutting technique.
At the time I didn’t know about the paper cutting category of art, and so I had the feeling of creating something amazing.
It felt like the moment of Eureka when you discover something for the first time.
I had a premonition that this was different to anything else I had made up to this moment and a new method of self presentation had emerged.
This feeling is something that I still hold to this day. I am always searching for a road which I am the solitary traveller on, and making something that is akin to discovery makes me happy.
I always challenge myself to make something new and inventive when I start work on a new project.
Talking about what drives my work, when I first started the origin of my work was Heart Sutra, and so I continued to make work similarly based on it, but one day I happened to speak to one of my friends from my high school.
He is the hereditary heir to a temple, and compared to someone like me, much higher up in the rankings of Heart Sutra.
By the way, maybe you could say it came from youthful spirit, but I had just opened an exhibition and I was getting more and more chances to set the conversation, so as an artist of paper cutting I had become a bit confident.
So I arrogantly turned to him and said, “I think I’ve come to understand Heart Sutra a bit better”.
In all sincerity he kindly replied to me with, “Nakamura, you’ve become really amazing. I still don’t really understand anything about Heart Sutra.”
I suddenly felt like I had had my head cut off.
I became acutely aware of my own shallow knowledge, and deeply regretted over stepping my bounds with my arrogance.
So from then on, due to this shock, I intentionally made works that were a little more distant from the ideas of Heart Sutra.
＜to be continued>
interview:NORIKO English:Tim Wendland